E-flite Sponsors a Hot New Race Event That's All-the-Rage and Focused On Fun.
The Electric Formula One (EF1) Nationals welcomed 42 registered pilots for the 2011 one-day event on July 9th, 2011. It all took place in Muncie, Indiana at the International Aeromodeling Center on the grounds of the Academy of Aeronautics Headquarters. E-flite proudly sponsored the pivotal contest to recognize that heart-pounding excitement and fellowship can launch from the flight line hand-in-hand.
An overwhelming number of RC pilots that came for the National racing competition to use traditional glow powered models also came prepared to fly EF1. The weather was perfect and the pilots were eager to race. Many new pilots were also in attendance to fly at the National level for the first time. E-flite provided a generous pilot package to every participant, plus setup a free charging station filled with Fast Charge capable Celectra™ Li-Po balance safe systems.
Event Coordinator Gary Freeman, Jr. kept the event running smoothly. The concourse was filled with aircraft, including NMPRA approved semi-scale formula one racers, but the E-flite® LR-1A Pogo 15e ARF seemed to be the most popular. The spectators were not short on entertainment, as a new race heat included up to four aircraft and ran every five minutes, turning ten laps at speeds between 110 and 120 mph.
Over the five-hour contest, almost 200 flights took place, and each one had participants and fans on their feet cheering a favorite. But to fully appreciate an "all-the-rage" event such as EF1, it helps to recognize the hard work and ingenuity behind it all.
The Road to EF1
The National Model Pylon Racing Association (NMPRA) has been governing and hosting National racing competitions for decades. They also help sponsor American world-class competition teams that have been victorious many times over at the gold level. The NMPRA keeps up with the times by continually developing it's entry-level to expert race classes in order to reflect evolving technology. Clearly, in the last few years, electric power technology has been growing in performance.
Racing, by nature, is all about performance. By the end of 2008, the popularity of electric power sparked the all new Electric Formula One race division. The basic intent of EF1 is simple–fly affordable models, powered by simple electric systems. E-flite saw the unwavering sensibility of this new race class and has been supporting its development in a hands-on manner by making value packed aircraft and power systems quickly available.
In short order, E-flite had power systems in the testing phase and an ARF prototype at the 2009 Nationals. By the following season, E-flite offered an abundance of one of the only two electric power systems approved by the NMPRA and a totally new E-flite racer, the LR-1A Pogo 15e ARF, which was delivered in time for the provisional trials at the 2010 Nationals.
Through the close of the 2010 season, EF1 competitions progressively burst onto the scene at local levels across the country. The new class of aircraft, like the E-flite LR-1A Pogo 15e, flew great not only on the race course, but also as a sport model. Pilots that flew the Pogo on a regular basis for sport learned quickly that racing offered a whole new level of excitement with a model they already trusted well enough to three-point land at their feet.
The mass availability of easy-to-assemble models and NMPRA Certified E-flite Power 25 motors surely helped get a lot of pilots into the air. While the Pogo was the most popular model at the EF1 Nationals, that statistic may change with the introduction of the E-flite Shoestring 15e EF1 Racer––the latest offering from E-flite that's a great sport model that can quickly convert to a top level EF1 racer with just a power system change.
Among the pilots interviewed during the E-flite EF1 Nationals, most commented that they've never had more fun racing. Jerry Small, designer of the Pogo and co-designer of the Shoestring said, "I haven't enjoyed myself more at a National competition than at the Nationals for EF1." He went on to comment, "This is what I got into racing for—to have fun with my friends and fly model airplanes as fast as they'll go."
Jerry wasn't alone in his enthusiasm. Scott McAfee, NMPRA President and EF1 Rules Proposal author shared his vision. "I wanted an event that leveled the playing field, is easy and less expensive to do than other National-level competitions." Scott also said that he got more than he'd hoped. "The semi-scale EF1 models are beautiful and the buy-in to get involved is surprisingly low thanks to developers like E-flite. Plus, you get a great sport model to boot."
EF1 racing is a little different than traditional pylon racing. First off, you don't need to invest a lot of money; most RC pilots that already fly electric have all the tools needed to maintain a four-channel airplane, plus they're familiar with the technology. Traditional glow-powered pylon race models require special handling, special fuel, specially built engines and expensive airframes.
And the glow models are loud too, which made them a thrill when tuned correctly, but EF1 models are really quiet, "So quiet that you can hear other pilots on the field racing with you laughing away." Category manager for Horizon Hobby, Inc. and race participant, Pete Bergstrom also said while commenting on how nice it is to have a working throttle, "Our old glow models had to be landed dead-stick. EF1 models have a working throttle the whole time, which allows the pilot to go around if the approach is botched. Plus, an electric motor is always easy to start. Ha!"
Even though the looks of the semi-scale EF1 racers appear very different, the design parameters regulated by the NMPRA keeps the performance of the aircraft very similar. Because all of the models have the same power system, and are closely regulated by the NMPRA, EF1 racing is very much about pilot skill. Setup and operation of an EF1 model is easy, so pilots have very quickly developed a sense of strategy and comfort level on the course never witnessed before with such efficiency.
And the Winners Are...
The racing at the 2011 E-flite EF1 Nationals was incredibly close, but the leader of the event was Gino Del Ponte, who became the first EF1 National Champion. A four-way fly off for second through fifth place resulted in Travis Flynn coming in second, Jerry Small in third, John Jennings in fourth, and Mike Helsel in fifth. Fastest time for the event was earned by Dennis Cranfill with 1:10.97. A best of show static contest was judged by Dennis O'Brien and was won by Scott McAfee with his Miss Dara.
This is only the beginning of an event that's already growing exponentially. With a race course that's tight and pilots flying low to the ground, Electric Formula One is fun for spectators too. Many would say that racing is all about performance; however, it seems that the E-flite EF1 Nationals has proved to pylon fans that racing is also about having a good time.
Even if you've only just learned to fly, surely the urge to run a few laps with your airplane around the field against a buddy has come across your mind. Give it a try and play safe. Have a good look at the E-flite LR-1A Pogo 15e and Shoestring 15e EF1 Racer while you're at it, and find out if going fast is the right speed for you.